I would give the book itself 5 stars, but as an audiobook, it's a disaster. It's very hard to listen to this book because the reader overacts in the extreme. He sounds like a really bad amateur stage actor - relentlessly distracting, really ruining the book. Almost every sentence is "recited" in such a way that it sounds like he is ridiculing the book and the characters. There is no way to describe how terrible the reading is, the worst I have heard on an audible book (which are usually terrific, I must say). Where was the voice talent director during this recording??? It's painful.
This is an excellent book in search of an audience that may not exist. The story is well-written and interesting. The narrator, Mr. Hill, performs suitable to the content. The trouble is, it is a book styled for young adults, and will likely leave anyone expecting a sophisticated novel of the turn of the last century leading up to WWI disappointed. Mr. Hill narrates in a breathless, gee-whiz style with multiple broad character voices that fit the story. However, it is a story along the lines of Tom Swift, almost a parody of that genre. Now, I believe the stylistic parody is done intentionally to entertain adults--but it falls short. It is a little too far over the line into juvenalia. The other problem is, as a novel for young adult (primarily boys), it is too learned. The wonderful facility that Thomas Pynchon has for language would leave young readers (other than those who are particularly precocious) overwhelmed and and sadly, not due to the plot line but as a result of the highly advanced linguistic gymnastics, bored.
Putting books on the back burner.
It was too soon for me to read "Against the Day" by Thomas Pynchon. I should had waited and read some of his other books from his back catalog first before I listened to this epic novel. This is only my second book from this author and I have nothing bad to say because I really like his style of writing.
Against the Day takes part after the first World War and expands through the globe and the story is all over the map. It's historical fiction with romance and a slight glimmer of tech which makes it good.
Like most epic novelist, Pynchon writes each of his characters to be the main character in each sub story to the main plot. The book tends to grow on you overtime and wear you out because of its great length. There were times where I couldn't wait to start where I left off and there were times where I needed to take a break to regroup my thoughts and listen again.
This is no fault to Thomas Pynchon because it's just the attention span to the reader when they are reading over a thousand pages or listening to 53 hours on a book. It is how most readers are. We just need to take a break.
My take of "Against the Day" is positive. I really liked how the story flows. I would had enjoyed the book more if I was more familiar of Pynchon's work, but from the two books that I've read so far, I really liked his style. I like his uneven storytelling the most. It's like having a floor puzzle with pieces all over and at the last spoken word, you hope to see the whole picture.
Even after spending quite some time with this audiobook, I have still yet to see the overall picture. I'm sure that the image will come to me after I read more of his classics. Against the Day is not my favorite title in my library and I can see why most listeners takes months to finish the book, but it is not my worst either.
1st let me address the narrator whom I've run across in the past. He has vastly improved. I heard him perhaps too often long ago and didn't think some recordings were all that good but he is very good here, not Frank Muller's Moby Dick or Jim Dale's Harry Potter which are top of the line, but non the less excellent. NOW for the story. Pynchon is crazy but in a good way. Aside from a "wild west" type episode early in the novel which goes on a bit long for me, I thoroughly enjoyed this from beginning to end. If you are familiar with Pynchon at all then you'll pick up on his themes: entropy, colonialism, haphazard history, science fact and fiction etc. It is hard to keep all the characters straight when they pop in and out for long stretches but the episodes are sometimes hilarious, sometimes tragic, sometimes fascinating. Tesla, World War 1, revenge, spies, obsessive sex, slapstick, puns, word play,pulp style comic scifi heroes, obscure history...What isn't in this book? I would still suggest starting Pynchon with Crying of Lot 49, and maybe even Inherent Vice to get a feel for whats coming, but though this is a big undertaking it was well worth it for me. Hopefully they'll get V., Mason & Dixon, Vineland, and Gravity's Rainbow on audio soon as well as his short stories which i also enjoy. & don't assume the craziest stuff in Pynchon is made up, i'm always amazed when i do a little research what turns up as real.
This book is well written (incredibly written really) but is equally hard to follow if you're not giving it your full attention. I get audio books to listen to as I'm walking or doing chores, so there are occasions were I'm not focused entirely on the book I'm listening too. Unfortunately with this book if you lose track of the story for even a moment it is incredibly hard to figure what you missed. This means a lot of going back which can be frustrating.
That being said I did love the parts that I knew what was going on. Characters are well written, colorful and varied. On that note, there are A LOT of characters. The book spans generations, and Pynchon jumps back and forth between different character arcs without warning, another reason it's hard to keep track of. huge variety of local all well described.
The narration was good, never really wow'd me but never detracted from the story either. He also kinda sounds like Stan Lee, which works better for some parts than others.
Obviously take my review with a grain of salt, I only made it through the first part and a half before I began to completely lose track of what was going on. May come back to it again when I've got the time to devote to it.
I ordered Against the Day because so much fuss is made about Thomas Pynchon. I now wonder more than ever why so much is made about his rambling style. I could not become interested in any of the characters, and just when a plot thread starts to appear, it is abandoned. I do admit he has a command of the English language and that he is creative with names and factoids. However, that was not enough to keep my interest. Listening to it made me long for James Joyce - I left Against the Day, which goes on for years, and returned to Ulysses, which in my mind, accomplishes more in a Bloomsday.
I've awaited an audibook from this author for some time although I was a little hesitant to embark on a novel 50+ hours long. The reviews on here didn't help either since they were posted a few days after the audio became available and were most likely from a fan or someone who wanted it to look good with 5 stars without having actually read the thing. I gave this book two hours of my time, but none of it was compelling. I kept asking myself why I was being thrown into this story and could find no justification for remaining interested after two hours. I understand this is not a typical novel, but I think a published book should grab you somewhere within the first two hours (or in print, by at least the second chapter). Still, I was let down. I am giving it two stars because I thought the narrator was wonderful. I would not warn against reading it, but I think this was definitely the wrong place to start with Pynchon
I enjoy listening to just about anything so I find it hard to tell if this would be a better listen if not for the narration. However, the readers sing-song voice is hard to stay awake to, let alone pay attention to the story thread.
The narrator has an interesting repertoire of character voices but the one he has chosen to narrate the story between when the characters are speaking (and this encompasses the vast majority of the story) should be used to calm unruly children.
Previous reviews I wish I read first before wasting a credit. They say it all
Nancy: This is one of a very few books I haven't been able to finish, and I've read and listened to a great many books.
Daniel T: I have perhaps listened to over 100 books over the years and have never failed to finish one. This one was so bad, so poorly written that try as I might, I couldn't get through more than about 20% of it. Yuck!
Jack: Difficult to follow and seemingly disjointed. I never finished the first segment. Given that life is finite, I urge you to spend your time wisely; don't buy it.
I only wish I took the time to read their comments before I bought this stinker. I have over 1,500 Audible books and this one is in a class by itself, only the 2nd one I have bailed on, a real nonsensical stinker, save your credit
Difficult to follow and seemingly disjointed. I never finished the first segment. Given that life is finite, I urge you to spend your time wisely; don't buy it.